Christmas on the Balearic Islands
Spending the holidays in the archipelago of the Balearic Islands means experiencing a unique experience where traditions give new sensations: amazed by taking part in celebratory events in Menorca and Mallorca, letting yourself be enchanted by the popular Pitiuse songs and closing your eyes tasting the flavors of the rich gastronomic offer of the islands, is all you need to experience the best of Christmas in these four pearls of the Mediterranean.
On each of the islands the holiday season is open in a different way. In Menorca, Christmas is anticipated by the arrival of four characters: the llumets, cute elves who according to legend live in Colom – a small island east of Minorca – and are commissioned to turn on the lights in the streets and squares on the first Sunday of December , thus officially giving way to the most magical period of the year.
To see them you need to stand in the Plaza de la Constitución de Mahón and look to the facade of the church of Santa Maria: the llumets climb furtive on the tower of the bell tower and from there greet the spectators and distribute sweets and candy to the present. The four goblins also have the task of ending the festivities by turning off the lights right after the Día de Reyes on January 5th. As soon as the little ones fall asleep, the llumets return to Colom Island to stay until the next Christmas holidays.
In Formentera, the Christmas period begins with the opening of the Mercado de Navidad, which is held in the pedestrian area of Plaza de la Constitución, in the small town of Sant Francesc. Made with the patronage of the Consejería de Comercio, this traditional market sees the protagonists of the local dealers and locals who exhibit on a stall a multitude of items. The Mercado de Navidad is open every day between 1 December and 6 January and during these days there are a number of interesting events for the public, including music shows, games and workshops dedicated to all ages. In addition, the Consejería de Cultura organizes, in coincidence with the opening of the event, a concert of popular songs devoted to the Nativity.
History and tradition blend in gastronomy and every island’s place gives the opportunity to taste the characteristic products of this period of the year: many varieties of nougat craft; ensaïmada stuffed with marzipan and Ángel cabel (a special pumpkin jam); Peix in real pasta (almond paste); sweet coconut or cinnamon biscuits, are just some of the typical delights that you encounter on the boards and in the streets of Majorca.
It’s not just the sweetness to bargain on the party menu at Christmas and at Santo Stefano – known as the Segunda Fiesta de Navidad – when the main meals are family gatherings important to be honored with banquets filled with every leccornia. The sophomore soup (stuffed soup) is an elaborate dish made from bread, meat and vegetables, which is open to Christmas banquets on the largest of the Balearic Islands, followed by dishes such as carn freda de Nadal or the labourious pastry, stuffed pasta conchiglioni of meat and served in broth. The meat is the protagonist of the mallards of the inland: poultry and piglet from roasted or in wet milk; turkey recipes such as stuffed turkey or scampi – a meat stew, potatoes and slightly fried onion, tomatoes, garlic and white wine with hazelnut and pine nuts, are not lacking, while in coastal villages it is customary to serve fish stewed to maiorchina, cooked with potatoes, onions, beets, parsley, garlic and tomatoes, flavored with salt, pepper, sweet paprika and olive oil.
In terms of Christmas gastronomy, Ibiza is a tradition – consuming accompanied by desserts and sometimes breakfasts – the Salsa de Nadal, a kind of liquid nougat prepared with a mix of very particular ingredients: almond paste, sugar, honey, spices and broth of meat, which give this seasoning a very intense, but at the same time delicious flavor. The Salsa de Nadal is very similar to the Mossona sauce that lacks the honey and is the protagonist of the starters and desserts of parties at Formentera.
In all the Balearic Islands, Christmas is celebrated solemnly for the Matines, midnight massages; those of Mallorca are internationally renowned thanks to the Cant de la Sibil-la. Declared UNESCO’s Immaterial Cultural Heritage in 2010, this exciting religious song of medieval origin, was introduced on the island after its conquest by James I of Aragon. The Latin text – adapted in Catalan from the 13th century – prophesies the arrival of the Redeemer and the final judgment, and is sung by a single angelic voice – usually a child or a little girl – wearing a white dress and an embroidered coat in classic
or medieval style. The singer takes a sword suspended in the air in front of the face for the duration of the song and performs without musical accompaniment. To make notes at international level the Matines of Ibiza and Formentera, there are instead the Caramelles de Navidad, songs of very ancient origins announcing the birth of Jesus. They are sung before the Christmas Mass by two people accompanied by the music of various instruments including the flute, the espasí and the castles. It is a cultural tradition that has been orally referred to as a father in son on the Pitiuse Islands for more than five centuries and for this reason the Caramelles were declared a Cultural Heritage in 2005. Music characterizes the days ahead of Christmas in Ibiza: the Audición de Navidad, a real concert by Escuela de Música de Ibiza, is celebrated on 15 and 16 December. The Coro de la Ciudad de Ibiza also organizes a Christmas musical event on Saturday, while the Banda Sinfónica de la Ciudad de Ibiza on Sunday 17 will perform at Espacio Cultural Can Ventosa.